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Joey Terrill: from Hasselblad film to Canon digital - Continued

terrill_package.jpg
Joey Terrill's standard client delivery package (Photo by Joey Terrill)

Generally, Terrill prefers to deliver images to his clients as 16-bit TIFF files in the Adobe RGB color space. If they request JPEGs or prefer 8-bit images, he's of course glad to comply. Normally, the images will be delivered on DVD or CD in a standard package that he assembles for each job.

The package comprises a 3/8ths of an inch clear plastic binder with a cover letter that includes the job name and file handling instructions for the enclosed images. Behind that is a plastic, hole-punched disc holder with the CD or DVD of finished images in it. And behind the disc are inkjet proof sheets inside plastic sleeves.

The proof sheets are printed 15-up or 4-up, depending on how many images are on the disc and whether Terrill thinks larger previews are beneficial. They contain a thumbnail of every image on the CD or DVD, and each thumbnail is captioned with the picture's file name. Terrill prints them using Photoshop’s Contact Sheet II automation plug-in and his Epson 7600 printer. "Even with so many good browsers available," Terrill says, "many [clients] still prefer the proof sheet. No one really likes to just look at the disc."

Recently, Terrill has had clients inquire about, or request, his original RAW files. He recognizes that in some corners of the photography business this makes sense. But his opinions on that notion for his type of shooting are unequivocal. "I'll be damned if I'm going to deliver somebody RAW images," he says flatly. "It's just not gonna' happen.

"To some degree, I'm one of those people who believes that if you're hired by someone you do have an obligation to do what they ask you to do, but, at some point, they're hiring you for you. They're not hiring you just to pull a trigger." And the shaping of an image's look and feel, he says, is now partly a function of how it is converted from RAW.

"That, to me, is my job. I want to sit at a color-correct monitor, and I want to interpret those RAW files exactly the way I want, and, not only that, I want them sharpened exactly the way I want, and on and on down the line. To me, to turn over any part of that would be like letting your editor compose your picture. After the [client] has what I consider to be the perfect interpretation of that file, it's out of my hands, and if they decide to do something else to it, I can't stop them. But I have to be able to give them what I think is ultimately my best interpretation of that file."

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For Sports Illustrated. Canon EOS-1Ds, ISO 100, 1/30, f/11, as-shot white balance of 4800K (Photo by Joey Terrill)
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Same photo as above, except it has been processed with a white balance of 15,000K set in the Photoshop CS Camera Raw 2.4 plug-in (plus a shallow focus effect has been added) (Photo by Joey Terrill)

Terrill also shoots some pictures with specific RAW conversion techniques in mind, and someone else, unaware of Terrill's intentions, could easily convert the file incorrectly. In one such example (shown at right), he shot a series of portraits of an athlete where he was aiming for background colors of exaggerated warmth and coolness.

"I had filtered the lights to do specific things," Terrill says, "meaning I wanted specific colors out of those lights, and I knew, if I manipulated the color temperature later in RAW [conversion], what those colors would do." But he was not aiming for a neutral color balance, and his in-camera white balance setting had no relation to his final intention. "Had I shot RAW+JPEG and delivered it that way, and they used the JPEGs as a guide for how to color balance the RAWs, they would have been completely wrong."

Terrill is also concerned that delivering unfinished files is a recipe for widely varying levels of final quality, which damages the reputation of digital photography. "Not only is it important for you as a photographer to deliver the best possible work," he says, "but it's important for the industry. Part of what slowed the acceptance of digital [was the] wide variety of quality in digital from good to horrifying. A lot of that is the photographers' own fault. [They] were delivering files long before they knew how to do it properly. I did that myself, there's no doubt about it. Delivering a RAW file, to me, is delivering an uncompleted job."

Like every other pro shooting digital, Terrill has had to figure out how to bill effectively for all of this post-processing time, as well as how to fund the large capital investment that high-end digital cameras require. His standard invoice presents a single line item, called "digital imaging fee", to his clients, but this fee is actually the total of eight separate line items (and he will provide the breakdown to the client, if asked).

The first of the eight line items is the equipment itself. "I bill for the camera every time I use it," he says. "I'm literally billing for the use of the camera almost as if the client is renting it." The rapid depreciation of high-end digital gear has to be recovered, he says, or you'll soon realize that your photography business is a non-profit.

"The way that I figured it out [the amount to charge] was to say, 'how many jobs will I do in the lifetime of this camera?', and then essentially divided that number into the cost of the camera. If my math is proper, my clients should pay for the camera, which is the way it ought to be anyway." This fee is a line item on his invoice called "35mm high-res capture". If he uses the EOS 10D, he charges a lower fee labeled "35mm capture", which is the second of his eight line items.

The other six items that comprise his total "digital imaging fee" are scanning, toning, retouching, media, proofsheets, and transmission. Not all jobs include charges for all categories (scanning, obviously, would only apply to film jobs). Scanning, toning, and retouching are charged by the hour. Media is charged per disc. Proofsheets are charged per sheet, and transmission is generally a flat fee.

Terrill says that in the rare cases where clients question these charges, he points out that they're paying about the same as they would have if they had to pay for film processing and scanning. That normally settles the issue.

On the technical side, knowledge about how to handle digital files properly can be spotty among his clients, Terrill says. "I tend to be proactive in the education of people who are getting my digital files. Basically, anyone who I work with gets a little note saying these are finished files, ready to go right into the magazine.

"Most of them do not work in a color-managed workflow. That seems to be very, very consistent. Many of them work on laptops, [and] I think it's next to impossible to judge anything on a laptop. I am amazed at how many people work in offices where the walls are painted green or yellow or pink.

"[But] I sleep well at night. I know that when images leave here they are right. It isn't, like, gee, I hope they're right. I know they are. But it took me a long time to get there."

That said, the printed output of his digital work is more consistently good than it was with film, Terrill says, a fact that he attributes to the absence of scanning. "That interpretation of the scene has been cut out, and that was usually where I had a problem."

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